Trigger warning: this post talks about rape.
I confess that I’m a sucker for bad TV. I can’t explain why I continue to watch some of the shows I watch. I just do. When I first saw ads for the CW’s new show, Ringer, one of my first reactions was “ooooh, Buffy!” Yes, Sarah Michelle Geller of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame leads the cast of Ringer. Unlike Buffy, however, Ringer is kind of, well, bad.
Ringer is about a set of identical twins, Bridget and Siobhan (both played by Geller). Bridget has a history of drug problems and prostitution. Siobhan blames Bridget for some past problems and the two haven’t seen each other in six years. Then Bridget witnesses a crime, but gets scared and runs to Siobhan the night before she’s set to testify. Siobhan manages to convince Bridget that she drowned, so Bridget seizes the opportunity to begin impersonating Siobhan in order to avoid being killed by the guy she was set to testify against. It turns out the people in Siobhan’s life didn’t know she had a twin sister. It’s not that hard for Bridget to convince Siobhan’s husband, stepdaughter, lover, and best friend that she’s Siobhan. Bridget learns that her sister’s “perfect” life wasn’t actually so perfect and decides she wants to fix things. Meanwhile Siobhan, who isn’t actually dead, is hanging out in Paris. See, Siobhan just wants Bridget to think she’s dead.
If this plot sounds like the plot of a Lifetime movie, I’d agree with you. And really, I question whether this plot can be sustained for an entire television series. Mostly, I question how long Bridget can realistically keep up with pretending to be Siobhan without someone picking up on the fact that something is amiss. Yes, Siobhan and Bridget are physically identical, but that’s where their similarities stop. Otherwise, they’re two very different people who behave in very different ways. When they met up in the first episode, they hadn’t seen each other in six years. A lot had happened in each of their lives in that period of time. Siobhan got married to a wealthy man and hadn’t bothered to tell any of the people in her new life that she even had a sister – let alone an identical twin. When Bridget assumed Siobhan’s identity, it was so painfully obvious that she wasn’t behaving the same way Siobhan would have. You would think that Bridget would be missing some details from the life of the sister she hadn’t spoken to in years. And while in the context of the show we see Bridget picking up bits and pieces, she seems to be able to pick things up fairly easily without anyone in Siobhan’s life catching on. The people in Siobhan’s life don’t seem to think there’s anything strange about her behavior, at least not to the point of picking up on the fact that Siobhan isn’t really Siobhan. The only person so far who has learned the truth has been Siobhan’s best friend, Gemma. Gemma, however, only learned the truth because Bridget told her. And Bridget only told Gemma the truth because Gemma found out that Siobhan was having an affair with her husband, Henry.
And here’s where the plot gets disturbing. Gemma decides she wants to leave Henry, but wants proof that he’s been cheating due to a clause in their pre-nup. So Gemma tries to blackmail Bridget into sleeping with Henry so that Gemma can catch them in the act. Bridget spent the entirety of the episode trying to decide her course of action. What Bridget keeps returning to is that she doesn’t want to hurt Siobhan’s husband, Andrew, by “cheating” on him (even though they can’t have any sort of healthy relationship while Andrew believes the Bridget is Siobhan). Not once does the issue of rape come up. You see, as long as both Henry and Andrew believe that Bridget is Siobhan, any sex Bridget has with either of them without first announcing her true identity is rape. When you consent to sex with one person, you’re not consenting to sex with their twin who’s impersonating them. The prospect of Bridget having sex with Andrew hasn’t yet been discussed in the same detail as her having sex with Henry, but it’s bound to come up sooner or later. But Andrew legitimately believes that Bridget is Siobhan and that she wants to work out the problems they’ve been having in their marriage. Bridget ultimately refuses to have sex with Henry. Not because it would be wrong to rape him, but because she doesn’t want to hurt Andrew. And that’s a problem. According to TVTropes, a “Bed Trick” is when someone deceives someone else into thinking they’re someone else in order to have sex with them. Most people can agree that it’s horrible when a man rapes a woman, yet some people still remain unconvinced that women raping men is as bad. I think this is something feminists need to be concerned about. It’s important to acknowledge that women can be both victims and perpetrators of crimes.
Another disturbing plot point is that Ringer’s “bad guy” – the one who wants to kill Bridget so she can’t testify against him – is Native American. It seems like the roles open to Native American actors are limited to casino owners, people with mystical powers, or villains. It would be really nice to see a Native American character that doesn’t fall into any of those categories.
- Male Rape via Disguise (Ringer/Buffy)
- I Watched the Fall Premieres So You Don’t Have To
- Rape Is OK When It Is Female on Male
- Bed Trick